As an older person, could you open your house to a stranger? As a younger person, would you be able to live with someone whose age might mean they need assistance? Marian Pocock explains what Homeshare is, the responsibilities of her role as a Homeshare Manager, and discusses the triumphs and challenges of this ambitious initiative.
I’ve worked at Age UK Oxfordshire since 2001 in various different roles. I’ve always been enthusiastic about the Homeshare concept and was delighted to be appointed to the team a year or so ago. I’m ultimately responsible for managing all aspects of the scheme, including the recruitment of ‘Householders’ and ‘Sharers’, the robust checking procedures, the ‘matching’ processes, and the ongoing support of the Homeshare arrangements once they have been set up. There are just two of us working at Homeshare Oxford, so we are a small resource.
What is a Homeshare?
A Homeshare is an arrangement whereby somebody with a spare room in their home, who might also need some practical help and companionship, makes that room available to somebody who needs affordable accommodation and can offer up to 10 hours of their time each week. In the context of Homeshare Oxford, which comes under the umbrella of Age UK Oxfordshire, Householders need to be over 50, although the majority of our Householders are in their seventies and eighties. The Sharers are typically younger, in their twenties and thirties, although we do have a number of Sharers in their forties and fifties. Actually, a Sharer can be any age.
How long does it usually take to make a ‘match’?
This is a question that we’re often asked and I always say ‘it really varies’ and it does! It basically comes down to finding the right person for the right person at the right time in the right location, so there are a huge number of variables. A lot of effort goes into the matching process as the match is, of course, crucial to the success of the Homeshare. On a couple of occasions we have made matches in 2-3 weeks, but that is exceptional. Realistically, it can take anything from 4-12 weeks and sometimes longer. We always advise people to get their application in as soon as they are ready so that we can begin the process and have as much time as possible to find a suitable match.
I’m always interested to know about the motivation of potential Householders and Sharers for wanting to be part of Homeshare. It’s particularly encouraging to hear younger people talk about being interested in learning from older people, about listening to their stories, their lives and valuing time spent with people from an older generation. Whilst affordable accommodation is clearly an important factor for Sharers, it’s by no means the be all and end all. Likewise, many Householders miss the company of younger people. Sharing time together and learning from each other is often as important as the practical help element.
One of the main challenges that we face is, quite simply, ensuring that we reach a sufficient number of matches to enable the scheme to be sustainable. Our funding from Lloyds Bank Foundation is coming to an end and we are needing to become self-sufficient. The good news is that we are definitely growing. We are heading in the right direction and there is a real sense that things are beginning to take off now.
Words of encouragement
If Homeshare sounds like something you, or perhaps someone you know, would be interested in, it’s worth hearing what some of the people involved in Homeshare Oxford have to say.
‘Undertaking a Homeshare with Wendy has been a transformative decision for me,’ says 24-year-old Eleanor. ‘It has enhanced my ability to be independent, and given me the opportunity to live in a city that I didn’t envisage being able to afford to stay in after graduating. The whole family have welcomed me with such kindness, and been more than accommodating as well as giving me plenty of space. I would recommend everyone to consider Homeshare as an alternative way of living. I believe it is an opportunity that really does have the potential to transform lives.’
Patience, 91, describes her experience of Homeshare: ‘I really value spending time with younger people. I’m interested in their ideas about things and their opinions. I have my own adult children but they are not close by so having a Homeshare is ideal for me. Now that I’m getting to the stage where I can’t do so many things for myself, the help that I get is very valuable. I know that accommodation in Oxford it totally unaffordable for many young people, people working in health, in education, and I’m very pleased to be able to help out. It’s a really good reciprocal arrangement.’
Homeshare Oxford covers the whole of Oxfordshire and we’d be delighted to hear from anyone interesting in finding out more about the scheme. Please call 01865 410670, email us at email@example.com